Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Ray Wilkins confirms Jon Obi Mikel & Michael Essien are close to returning for Chelsea

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26:  Michael Essien of Chelsea  poses for a picture before the men's singles round robin match between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 26, 2009 in London, England  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)Chelsea midfielders Jon Obi Mikel and Michael Essien are set to give manager Carlo Ancelotti a boost ahead of the new season, with Blues' assistant manager Ray Wilkins confirming that the two African stars are nearing returns from injury.

Both players were forced to miss the World Cup with knee injuries this summer, but both could be available for Chelsea's opening Premier League fixture against West Bromwich Albion on August 14.

"Jon Obi is slightly in advance of Michael Essien but they are both working very well indeed," Wilkins told his club's official website.

"They have been working double sessions for the last week and we will get them really firing before the season starts."

One new arrival at Stamford Bridge this summer has been Israeli winger Yossi Benayoun, signed from Liverpool.

The new boy is apparently enjoying the way pre-season is handled at Stamford Bridge - in contrast to what used to happen at Anfield.

"Yossi is doing well. He has said the pre-season training here is so different to what they did at Liverpool where they didn't use a ball," Wilkins explained.

"They ran and they ran and they ran. But here we use the ball all the times and we feel we get the best out of the guys by using the ball day in day out. I think Yossi is quite enjoying himself."

Meanwhile, Ancelotti's assistant at Chelsea also admitted that managing the fitness of those Blues stars who have been at the World Cup would be a challenge this season.

Michael Essien Celebrates with team mates during the post match celebrations Chelsea 2009/10 Chelsea Premier League Champions 2009/10 Chelsea V Wigan Athletic (8-0) 09/05/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

"Normally after a World Cup you find those players who come back from it, it is about December when they seem to hit a wall," he added.

"It is very important we manage them in the correct manner and we get them to a level where they won't be as fit as we want them to be, but as they creep into the new year their fitness will come back.

"The players we have got here now, we have to get them into the right fitness condition so that they are prepared to play, because we might not be able to use the guys coming back from the World Cup for the first couple of games.

"These young men have to be primed and ready to perform."